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If you follow the reporting on Palestine in the US media, you may imagine a fundamentalist state. Hamas-stan, as at least one Israeli commentator has called it. You may imagine a nation of terrorists, where women are oppressed and men launch rockets. But perhaps when we learn that Palestinian families swim on Friday afternoons, that they study literature in the day and rap about imprisoned friends at night

 

 

Hip Hop Resistance in Gaza

By Jordan Flaherty

June 5, 2009

 

The Maqusi Towers in Gaza City look a bit like US housing projects. The neighborhood consists of several tall apartment buildings grouped together in the northern part of town. It is also ground zero for Gaza's growing Hip-Hop community. On a recent evening in one small but well-decorated apartment, a dozen rappers and their friends and families relaxed, danced, smoked flavored tobacco, and rapped the lyrics to some of their songs.

The occasion was a post-show celebration of the taping of Hip Hop Kom, an American Idol-type talent competition for Palestinian rappers. Fifteen acts from across Palestine performed on Thursday night, and the show was broadcast simultaneously in Gaza City and the West Bank city of Ramallah. Through the use of video conferencing and projection, each city could see and hear the performances happening in the other. Five groups from Gaza participated, and Gazawians came in first, third, and fourth place.

The Gaza City show was held in a small theatre in the Palestine Red Crescent building. Although only publicized by word of mouth, nearly 200 young people filled the theatre, loudly cheering for the rappers and breakdance crew who took the stage.

One of the organizers of the contest, a charismatic literature major named Ayman Meghames, is a minor celebrity here. Part of Gaza's first Hip-Hop group—named PR: Palestinian Rapperz—Ayman dedicates his time to supporting and publicizing Gaza's young music scene.  

Armed with a ready smile, Ayman was seemingly everywhere at once that night. He was on stage introducing the acts, helping with technical difficulties, greeting friends, and coordinating with the West Bank organizers.

For Ayman, making music is a form of resistance to war and occupation, and also a tool to communicate the reality of life in Palestine. "Most of our lyrics are about the occupation," he tells me. "Lately we've also started singing about the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. Any problem, it needs to be written about." Rapper Chuck D, from the group Public Enemy, once called rap music the CNN for Black America. For Ayman and his friends, music is their weapon to break media silence. "Most of the world believes we are the terrorists," he says. "And the media is closed to us, so we get our message out through Hip-Hop."

One of the first acts to take the stage was a duo called Black Unit Band. Mohammed Wafy, one of the two singers, displays the innocent charm of a teen pop star as he jumps from the stage and into the audience. Tall and skinny with a shock of black hair, Mohammed is 18 and looks younger. Khaled Harara, the other singer (and Mohammed's next door neighbor) is a few years older and several pounds heavier, but no less energetic on stage.

As the evening progressed, the energy in the room continued to rise. The next act featured six members from two combined groups (DA MCs, and RG, for Revolutionary Guys) now collectively called DARG Team. The crowd was up on their feet, many of them singing along as the performers displayed a range of lyrical stylings.

In Mohammed Wafy's apartment, the performers waited anxiously for the results of the contest. The call came in on Ayman's cell phone. Putting it on speaker, everyone listened as the results were announced: DARG team had come in first place, and Black Unit had placed third. There were no hurt feelings apparent for those that didn't win - for these young performers, every victory is a shared victory.  DARG members will now go on to Denmark to produce an album (if they can get out of Gaza).

Fadi Bakhet, a studious and slightly preppy looking Afro-Palestinian in wire -rimmed glasses, is DARG's manager, and also the brother of one of the members. As the night continued, the gathering moved to his apartment. They celebrated the successful show, which also fell on the last day of exams for many students, and the laughing and conversation continued late into the night. The next day was hot and sunny, and thousands of Gazawians gathered on the beach to swim and relax by the Mediterranean.

These stories may seem incongruent with much of the international reporting about Gaza and the Hamas government. But it is exactly for this reason that they should be told.

If you follow the reporting on Palestine in the US media, you may imagine a fundamentalist state. Hamas-stan, as at least one Israeli commentator has called it. You may imagine a nation of terrorists, where women are oppressed and men launch rockets. But perhaps when we learn that Palestinian families swim on Friday afternoons, that they study literature in the day and rap about imprisoned friends at night, we can rethink the US' unquestioning support for Israeli aggression against this almost entirely defenseless population.

Yesterday, I visited a journalism class at the Islamic University, taught by Rami Almeghari. The students had many questions, but one young woman's words in particular stayed with me. "What can we do to reach people in America and tell them how things really are here," she asked. "How can we get them to listen, and to see?"

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist based in New Orleans, and an editor of Left Turn Magazine.  He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience and his reporting on post-Katrina New Orleans shared a journalism award from New America Media. His work has been published and broadcast in outlets including Die Zeit (in Germany), Clarin (in Argentina), Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, and Democracy Now. He is currently traveling in Gaza with a delegation of journalists, organizers and human rights workers from the US south. He can be reached at neworleans@leftturn.org.

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 Life in Gaza

As President Obama visits Cairo,

Gaza Remains Devastated

By Jordan Flaherty

 

More than four months after Gaza was devastated by a massive Israeli military bombardment, rebuilding has been slow to come. The problem is not a lack of funding or will. However, an Israeli-led blockade has kept all rebuilding materials, including concrete or any tools that could be used to rebuild the hundreds of homes and buildings here, out of Gaza. The border entries, controlled by the Israeli and Egyptian governments, are sealed to almost all traffic.

There is an intense desire here to rebuild. There is no shortage of skilled labor. Billions of dollars of aid from countries around the world, including the US, has been pledged. But scarcely a single house has been rebuilt. From the Rafah border in the south to the town of Beit Hanoun in the north, people are still living in tents, or with family members, or in shelters.

The range of destruction is breathtaking. More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in 22 days, the vast majority civilians, including more than 300 children. Schools, health clinics, houses, and, most importantly, the basic infrastructure of both public services and government has been destroyed. Rubble is everywhere. Basic government structures, such as the building that houses the Palestinian parliament are all destroyed.

Two days ago, a delegation 66 activists, scholars, journalists and human rights workers, mostly from the US, visited the Parliament building. The visit was organized by the peace group Code Pink, which has led several delegations attempting to break the blockade. The group was surprised to find the building housing the legislature reduced partly to rubble, and Parliament members forced to meet in a tent outside.  Having no building to meet in is just one of the many problems facing the elected government of the Palestinian people. "Not only are more than 11,000 prisoners in Israeli jails," explained Dr. Ahmed Bahar, the acting speaker of the Palestinian legislative council, and part of the Hamas political party. "Forty members of the legislative council are imprisoned, including the head of the legislature. Can you imagine if the head of the legislature, of anywhere else in the world, were held in prison by a foreign government?"  Dr. Bahar appealed to the US activists assembled for help in breaking the siege. "They don't allow basic construction material to enter," he said. "Cement, glass, wood, steel."

Gaza is among the most densely populated places on earth. One and a half million people live in 139 square miles, and it has been described as the world's largest prison. Traveling across this very small area, you meet people everywhere who just want to live a normal life, but are being prevented by a cruel blockade from going anywhere or doing anything.

"The biggest lie that has been told is that Gaza is a hostile entity," declares John Ging, the head of the United Nation's Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip. "Its populated by well educated, decent people. They're not spitting hatred. Theyre asking for help, theyre asking for justice, theyre asking for the rule of law." An Irish former soldier with a staff of 10,000, Ging is a UN bureaucrat, not an activist, but his respect for the international law has made him a passionate spokesperson for a rebuilding of Gaza.

Under the current seige, explains, Ging, "Theres no cement, even if its to repair a hospital or school or health center. So people are being kept alive, nothing more." Its been said in the US media that the situation in Gaza is complicated, that the seige is part of a defense against terrorism, but Ging denies these claims. "When  it comes down to it, its rather simple whats needed," he says. "What we now need to focus on is creating a life for people here. We need to see the depoliticization of assisstance. What we have here in gaza is a failure to uphold those basic human rights."

Gaza is currently currently hosting several delegations of international human rights observers and activists from the US and Europe. With each month, more people come here, and see the painful reality of the situation here. And with each new arrival, the seige perhaps moves a step closer to ending.

President Obama is scheduled to be in Cairo tomorrow, and members of Code Pink plan to ask him to visit Gaza. Tens of thousands of people from the US have signed a petition asking him to see the devastation. Across Gaza, people are looking for some sign that the new president will stand up for human rights in Palestine. "We ask Obama not to close his eyes to the Palestinian catastrophe," says Dr. Bahar. "We are running out of time," says John Ging. "We need to move from keeping people alive to giving them a life."

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist based in New Orleans, and an editor of Left Turn Magazine.  He was the first writer to bring the story of the Jena Six to a national audience and his reporting on post-Katrina New Orleans shared a journalism award from New America Media. His work has been published and broadcast in outlets including Die Zeit (in Germany), Clarin (in Argentina), Al-Jazeera, TeleSur, and Democracy Now. He is currently traveling in Gaza with a delegation of journalists, organizers and human rights workers from the US south. He can be reached at neworleans@leftturn.org.

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Other Responses

Below is a memorable chunk of the speech President Obama delivered in Cairo to the Muslim World. I found Mr. Obama's expression, "Violence is a dead en." rather rich in that he heads a country which is the greatest purveyor of violence on the globe. Second, there is the studied model of Martin Luther King's SCLC Movement as the whole of the civil rights movement. Obama stumbles into that abyss. To include South Africa in this ideological view on the uses of violence is to disremember Nelson Mandela and the ANC. We find Barack personally a good man who means well, but the latter has little to do with the outcome of actual American policies. Third there's the eternal bond between the United States and Israel. It seems as if Israel should become the 51st and Palestine the 52nd for balance.Rudy

“Violence is a dead end.”—(from Obama’s Speech in Cairo)—For peace to come, it is time for them—and all of us—to live up to our responsibilities. Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia.

It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress. NYTimes

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The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

By  Ilan Pappe

It is amazing, according to Pappe, how the media had not managed to see the similarities between the ethnic cleansing that was happening in Bosnia with the one that is happening in Palestine. According to Drazen Petrovic (pg.2-3), who has dealt with the definition of ethnic cleansing, ethnic cleansing is associated with nationalism, the making of new nation states and national struggle all of which are the driving force within the Zionist ideology of Israel. The consultancy council had used the exact same methods as the methods that were later to be used by the Serbs in Bosnia. In fact Pappe argues that such methods were employed in order to establish the state of Israel in 1948.

The book is divided into 12 chapters with 19 illustrations in black and white, with 7 maps of Palestine and 2 tables. These include old photographs of refugee camps, and maps of Palestine before and after the ethnic cleansing of 1948. Pappe continues his writing as a revisionist historian with the intention of stating the bitter truth to his Israeli contemporaries and the fact that they have to face the truth of their nation being built upon an ethnic cleansing of the population of Palestine.

One can sense an optimistic hope in Pappe’s writing when he talks about the few who are in Israel who are aware of their country’s brutal past especially 1948 and the foundation of the state upon ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.—PaLint

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 3 May 2011 

 

 

 

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